zondag 24 augustus 2008

Israël stemt in met wijzigingen route afscheidingsbarrière

Onderstaand bericht is een paar weken oud. Op de website van de BBC las ik dat Israël nu ook de route van het hek cq. muur bij Maale Adumim gaat aanpassen, eveneens na een uitspraak van het hooggerechtshof. De regering zou er goed aan doen de adviezen van de Council for Peace and Security betreffende de route meer ter harte te nemen. Dat zou een hoop tijd en geld en ellende besparen en ook nog het imago van Israël ten goede komen.

Last update - 14:51 28/07/2008

Israel agrees to raze part of West Bank separation fence

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

After a five-year battle, the defense establishment has finally given in: It agreed to dismantle a 2.4-kilometer stretch of the separation fence north of Qalqilyah. The move will return 2,600 dunams of agricultural land to its Palestinian owners.

The dismantled stretch will be replaced by 4.9 kilometers of fencing closer to the Green Line, at a cost of more than NIS 50 million. The new route largely follows the one proposed years ago by the Council for Peace and Security.

The change apparently stemmed in part from the views of new Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who believes the government, not the IDF, should determine the precise route of the fence.
The fence in this area was built in 2003, and residents of several nearby Palestinian villages promptly petitioned the High Court of Justice against it. They won several legal victories over the years: The court ordered the fence be moved closer to the Green Line around Bil'in, Alfei Menashe and Tzufin.

In the latter ruling, issued in 2006, the court lambasted the state for having concealed the fact that the original route of the fence, east of Tzufin, was dictated not by security considerations, but by the settlement's expansion plans. In the Bil'in ruling in 2007, the court reiterated that the fence's route must be dictated by security, not a settlement's expansion plans.

Despite these precedents, however, the defense establishment initially refused to change the route north of Tzufin. Later, the state agreed to move the fence closer to the Green Line, but not all the way, which would return 1,500 out of 3,000 dunams of land confiscated from local Palestinians. It explained this offer by saying that the original route had passed four kilometers east of the settlements Kochav Yair and Tzur Yigal - far more than needed to keep them out of the range of gunmen on the other side of the fence.

In 2006, the Council for Peace and Security filed an amicus curiae brief in which it argued that a route very near the Green Line would satisfy the demands of security. In June 2007, however, the defense establishment told the court that it viewed this alternative as "inferior in terms of security." IDF representatives also took this line in meetings with then-defense minister Amir Peretz.

But Ashkenazi, who was appointed in February 2007, was outraged when he later discovered that the real reason for the original route was not security needs, but rather plans to set up a new neighborhood north of Tzufin. He told Peretz at the time that he no longer wanted IDF officers defending the fence's route in court. The route is a political issue, he argued, and therefore, it must be determined by the government.

The IDF, he continued, will defend nearby settlements given whatever route the government decides on.

Since then, the IDF has been much less involved in determining the fence's route. Nevertheless, more than a year passed before the defense establishment finished replanning the route north of Tzufin - and only last month did the state finally inform the High Court of this decision.

In its announcement, which the Council for Peace and Security received only a few days ago, the state claimed that the new route - which is almost identical to that originally proposed by the council - "provides a reasonable security solution to the various threats." It attributed its change of heart to the Bil'in ruling, which forbade the route from being based on planned settlement expansions.

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